NEC Harlequins faced their toughest test in the Zurich A League so far against London Irish at Sunbury last night (Monday 4th October) but by scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half, the visitors came away with a victory by 31-19. It's a result that maintains Quins 100% winning record after four matches so far this season.
Despite having the better of the opening ten minutes, Quins conceded the first points of the night. From a scrum on the halfway line, Exiles winger Dominic Shabbo cut through the defence and took play up to the Quins twenty-two before giving full back Delon Armitage the scoring pass. Fly half Ross Laidlaw not only missed the conversion but also a simple penalty attempt, meaning that the home side led by only five points after 16 minutes.
Quins hit back as the game went into the second quarter. Andy Dunne found touch close to the Irish line from a penalty and at the lineout, prop Mark Lambert was driven over for the try. Dunne's conversion went in off the post to give Quins a two-point advantage (7-5).
Nine minutes before the break and the Exiles retook the lead, as Laidlaw's clever chip through to the right hand corner resulted in a try for winger Neil Whitworth, who was first to the loose ball. Laidlaw converted and was called into action again six minutes later when Armitage touchdown under the posts for his second try after being put clear by Mark Mapletoft. The two extra points from the conversion gave the Irish a 12-point cushion at the halfway stage (19-7).
Persistent pressure from Quins from the restart resulted in a try for captain Roy Winters ten minutes into the second half. Nick Easter won a lineout five metres from the line and his tap down to Winters allowed the second row to stroll roll under the posts for a simple score. Tom Williams took over the kicking duties with Dunne off the field and his conversion cut the deficit to five points (19-14).
Six minutes later and Quins were back in front. After winning a scrum against the head deep inside the Irish twenty-two, Williams put Henry Barratt clear down the right and an unopposed run-in for the visitors third try of the contest. Williams converted to give Quins a two-point lead (21-19) and was then instrumental in setting up the final try 18 minutes from the end.
Williams weaved his way past Mapletoft before his electrifying pace took play deep into Irish territory. Chris Cracknell was in support and he gratefully accepted the scoring pass to touchdown by the posts. Another successful conversion from Williams put Quins two scores ahead (28-19).
Williams then put Cracknell clear once again and even though the flanker was hauled down short of the line, the Irish defence were penalised for being offside allowing Williams to add three further points to the Quins total. Despite a late rally from the home side, the visitors defence held out in the time that remained to give Quins another impressive victory in the Zurich A League.
Final score, 19-31.
London Irish XV: 15. Delon Armitage 14. Neil Whitworth, 13. Rodd Penney, 12. Kieron Geraghty, 11. Dominic Shabbo, 10. Ross Laidlaw, 9. Kevin Barrett, 1. Doug Wheatley, 2. David Paice, 3. Pierre Durrant, 4. Gary Johnson, 5. Ryan Strudwick, 6. Paul Gustard (Capt.), 7. Tony Roques, 8. Kieran Roche
Replacements: 16. Adam Halsey, 17. Simon Elkinson, 18. James Jones, 19. Derry Coughlan, 20. Mike Haslett, 21. Mark Mapletoft, 22. Richard Skuse, 23. James Grimes
NEC Harlequins XV: 15. Tom Williams, 14. Henry Barratt, 13. Tosh Masson, 12. Andy Reay, 11. Joe Mbu, 10. Andy Dunne, 9. Matt Henjak, 1. Tom Muggridge, 2. Cameron Dott, 3. Mark Lambert, 4. Opeta Palepoi, 5. Roy Winters (Capt.), 6. Mamma Molitika, 7. Tom Guest, 8. Nick Easter
Replacements: 16. Marlow Warrington-Mattei, 17. Alex Rogers, 18. George Robson, 19. Ben Thomson, 20. Chris Cracknell, 21. Duncan James, 22. Mike Brown
Tries: Lambert, Winters, Barratt, Cracknell
Conversions: Dunne, Williams (3)
Harlequins fan Ed Atkin won the Etihad Airways 'Up and Under' competition at the Northampton Saints game. As a result, he and a friend have won a holiday to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.